1. It’s telling that a player such as tight end Chris Cooley considers this the most exciting part of his career. Here’s what he told reporters (I included it in this story): “This run has been the most exciting part of my career. It makes it so much fun to be here and so much fun to be around the guys. That’s all you can ask for.”
  2. That’s from a guy who has one catch since he returned and who was a big part of two previous playoff runs. But Cooley has been confident in the direction of the organization since Mike Shanahan arrived. And he was very, very confident before last season. But this is why he was disappointed to have been cut this summer. It’s also why he was so happy to return.
  3. It was odd to walk around the locker room today not knowing what will happen next week. Typically you start collecting info for end-of-year stories and find out offseason plans, etc. Today? Who wants to talk about that when their minds are focused on Dallas and a potential playoff run? Easy answer: nobody.
  4. The locker room atmosphere was about the same as always, though the music was not blaring when we entered. It’s not as if players are sitting around jittery about Sunday. There’s a definite excitement, but they stressed on Wednesday the approach they wanted to take. If they were too amped up now, they’d have little left for Sunday.Here’s what Lorenzo Alexander had to say about it: “There’s a lot at stake, but if you get caught up in all the hype, to me I think you lose focus. Don’t get caught up in the hype like I have to do something special. No, just do your job – what you’ve been doing – and make the plays you should make.”
  5. And here’s what DeAngelo Hall had to say: “I can see the buzz in the city… You can tell something special’s going on. But it means nothing if we can’t capitalize this weekend. It’s definitely an added sense of pressure but that’s why we play this game.”
  6. For the second straight year Alexander earned the Washington media’s Good Guy Award. The only other player to win it twice? Champ Bailey in 2002-03 (the first two years we handed it out). Yeah, a few players razzed Alexander after he was given the award, but it’s hard to imagine there’s another player more respected. We were going to get him an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii, but the league took care of that Wednesday so we put his name on a plaque (yeah, I used that joke earlier).
  7. The season zipped by the past six weeks, didn’t it? Sort of different than the end of some other seasons (Jim Zorn, both years; Steve Spurrier’s second year) when they were terrible, boring and change was coming.  But I think I’ll sleep for a month when it’s all done. That is, if our 3-year-old Beagle (Archie) will let me sleep past 4:30 a.m. He thinks it’s fun to jump on the bed and lick my face at that time. Apparently we differ about how much fun that really is.
  8. I have a hard time seeing Dallas’ offense failing to make the plays that have been available against the Redskins’ defense during this stretch, especially with their main players all available in this game. They’re a different offense than in the first meeting just because Cole Beasley is not a main target. They will move the ball. I know Jim Haslett will be blamed for every yard allowed, but the reality is this secondary is not built to defend this sort of passing game. This won’t be about scheme. This is a different Dallas offense than what Washington saw in the first game.
  9. I did love London Fletcher’s interception in the first meeting, mainly because of how they fooled Tony Romo into making the throw. Fletcher was with Jason Witten off the line; DeAngelo Hall was with Beasley on the same side. When Beasley cut inside and Witten outside, the two defenders switched off and that must have surprised Romo. Fletcher made the easy pick.
  10. The Redskins did better vs. Romo when they sent five rushers. The Cowboys averaged 4.5 yards per attempt on 22 passes vs. five-man rushes (with two six-man rushes as well). But they averaged 8.6 yards per attempt on 40 passes vs. four-man fronts.
  11. In the first game, the Redskins scored 28 points and gained — yards in the second quarter. In the other three quarters they combined for 191yards and 10 points. What does it mean? I don’t know because the points and yards still count even if they come in one quarter.
  12. I also know that the Redskins view what happened with Dallas in the fourth quarter as a bit of an anomaly because of the situation. That may be, but I’d still be worried that they did that to a team without having its starting running back, a couple offensive linemen missing and their No. 2 receiver. I also know that Dallas could look at that second quarter and claim what the Redskins sometimes do, that if they didn’t turn the ball over … or allow that long play …the game would have been different.
  13. I think the fact that Sunday’s game is vs. Dallas is a bit irrelevant to the players. Their feeling would be the same if they were playing Philadelphia, the Giants or Chicago. They understand what the rivalry means, but few have been here long enough to work up any real disdain for the Cowboys. And the key for them isn’t so much winning the division, but to earn a playoff spot. You don’t get trophies for winning the NFC East (but you do get a home playoff game). Of course, I have a feeling that Sunday night, they’ll understand what the rivalry truly means courtesy of the fans.
  14. Sorry, no film review this week. Blame the holidays and the increased workload because of this game for preventing it from happening. Those reviews probably take 16 hours or so to do right. I opted for Christmas with the family instead (though there were moments when …). Yeah, it was the right call. I did watch the game again, but not with the same intensity so the reviews would lack depth. Don’t like that.
  15. I like what Rob Jackson has done, but I’m amazed that he still goes unblocked at times. That’s how he made two plays in the backfield vs. the Eagles. On film, I don’t see him as taking attention away from Ryan Kerrigan, who was still doubled on a few occasions. Jackson could easily have been called for a holding penalty against receiver Jeremy Maclin on a route where the Eagle started outside and cut back inside when Nick Foles started to move in the pocket. But Jackson did a decent job getting off blocks on a few runs. I do like how he’s progressed and how he makes big plays.
  16. Barry Cofield continues to play well and I know a lot was made about his tackle on the screen to Maclin in the second quarter. After watching it on the coaches film, there’s a good chance that Maclin could get outside and score on the play. It was blocked and the only one with a shot at him might have been Madieu Williams. Instead, Cofield made a terrific read and tackle (he never really engaged the offensive lineman on the play, which helped get a quicker break to the ball). The Eagles settled for a field goal.
  17. Cofield showed terrific quickness on a screen pass in which he hit Foles as he threw the ball. It’s clear he’s starting to read plays even quicker. I also like how Kerrigan has played the past couple games; making his presence felt much more.
  18. One play I really liked on offense: the touchdown to Joshua Morgan. The Redskins had tried to run the bubble screen to Pierre Garcon, but it didn’t generate much because of the Eagles’ inside pursuit. On Morgan’s touchdown, he started in motion from the left side and by the time he caught the ball his momentum carried him to the outside, where the receivers had it blocked. A variation of a play they had run that resulted in a touchdown.
  19. The receiver blocking was terrific vs. the Eagles. It made a difference on a number of plays, including Morgan’s touchdown. If I’d had the time, I would like to have added up the extra yards the Redskins gained just because of the receiver’s blocks.
  20. I liked how the Redskins used the end around or fake end around quite a bit early in the game, trying to freeze the ends.
  21. Maurice Hurt did a better-than-expected job at right tackle, but there were a number of times he failed to block anyone on stretch zones to the left. The best thing I can say is that he did not commit a major mistake and I’m not being facetious when I say that. It’s a good thing. But I did see times where Brandon Graham would have applied pressure had the ball not been thrown quick (it’s how QBs can help the protection).  But for a guy who had never played the position he didn’t do a bad job.
  22. I did not like Hurt’s reaction on the interception. He ignored the ball carrier and instead blew up a blocker and then stood over the man he had just leveled. Probably would have been better to hit the guy who had intercepted the pass instead. By the way, the runner gained another 23 yards after Hurt took out the blocker.
  23. Saw fullback Darrel Young drive a linebacker four yards back on one play. Had Trent Williams not lost his block on the play, Young’s block would have made a huge difference. Williams still has trouble pushing off his left leg. He does not have the same strength trying to stop an inside rusher. But he can still get out in space and drive people, as he did on one block Sunday. I’m glad that Williams earned a trip to Hawaii. He’s always been rather outgoing, but there’s a difference with him this year. Wonder if it’s just the fact that he feels more comfortable and confident. He should feel that way. A nice recovery from last season.
  24. You know how players say games like Sunday are why they love playing? Well, the same goes for members of the media. I did not want to become a sportswriter to cover meaningless games every season. I’ve done enough of that. Football pulls you in as a child in part because of big games like this. The atmosphere Sunday should be electric and it has the potential to be a game that’s remembered for a long time. It’s fun to play any role in a game like that, even if it’s from the press box.
  25. Time for everyone to get some rest. Have a feeling that whatever happens Sunday, fans will have a hard time going to sleep.


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